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Mayerling, Royal Ballet Autumn 2022


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20 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Unless Osipova's size has changed dramatically in the two months since I last saw her dance, I am surprised you make these comments given there are many ballerinas who are much larger than she!

 

Indeed - my understanding was that any difficulty some partners may have had with Osipova has been down to her unpredictability rather than her size.

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It’s one thing dancing alongside one another (like Tchai pdd) with a few lifts, and another thing attempting the complex lifts and throws and catches required in the multiple and long pdd in Mayerling.  This ballet is a strength problem for the male dancer when partnering any ballerina … larger ballerinas must create extra strain, whatever the reason for being larger.  We’ve all heard interviews of Ed Watson, Matthew Ball and others saying how much extra work they have to do on upper body strength for the many challenging pdd in Mayerling.  
 

Many dancers male and female have completely different physiques in their mid20s to mid30s.  As we have seen with Steven McRae … perhaps many are too waif-like in their 20s for longterm health. 
 

Natalia is a completely different size now than in her 20s.  
Here after Mayerling on 5.10.22 https://www.instagram.com/p/CjYaW8KIHt1/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y= compared to Anastasia in 2016 https://dancemagazine.com.au/2016/11/anastasia/

 

For me this issue raises a question about RB management’s responsibility of care to their male dancers.  Ryo is tall and strong and understands partnering.  Thank goodness!  I assume that’s why some principal ballerinas will never be able to be Mary Vetsera.

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Not sure I can tell very much from the 2 photos of Osipova.  Different angle, different costume, different pose.  Also, in the group photo she is standing next to Leanne Benjamin, who I believe was the tiniest of the RB principals when she was dancing and would make anyone look big in comparison.  What I found interesting was the difference in physique between the two men.  

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The great problem for men in this role is that more muscle equals less stamina; the single greatest issue for professional athletes is that trade-off. Mayerling requires both, and the issue can't be ignored or resolved.

 

Photos can, perhaps, be a guide for us, though I'm sure the lads in this piece are guided by the huge advances in recent years made by sports science. I actually wanted to ask Matt about this point at the Insight event.

 

People do change shape though we should remember 1lb of muscle looks the same as 7lbs of non-muscle (IIRC).

 

Imo, they are almost certainly gaining no more muscle than is necessary to lift specific people.

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2 minutes ago, postie said:

The great problem for men in this role is that more muscle equals less stamina; the single greatest issue for professional sportsmen is that trade-off. Mayerling requires both, and the issue can't be ignored or resolved.

 

That's interesting; I know nothing of such things, having neither muscle nor stamina... but it has occurred to me in recent years that female dancers are much more muscly (or at least look so) nowadays and are therefore presumably heavier than in the past (even when tiny by any normal standards), and that must have consequences in terms of partnering requirements. I do worry for the men (and, of course, for the women! Especially in pdd like those in Mayerling).

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Female athletes can go down to about 10% body fat, that's as lean as is healthy (breasts virtually go, comes a point where you can't do a lot more about the bum). Men max is about 3-ish%, iirc.

 

All this will be guided now at the ROH by science and regular testing (standard for pro athletes in the UK).

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8 minutes ago, postie said:

The great problem for men in this role is that more muscle equals less stamina; the single greatest issue for professional sportsmen is that trade-off. Mayerling requires both, and the issue can't be ignored or resolved.

 

 

 

 

With regard to sportsmen, the ratio of muscle is very carefully worked out according to the activity.  Having more muscle doesn't necessarily equate to less stamina.  Look at male tennis players; huge amounts of stamina and lots of muscle as well.  I am sure male ballet dancers must have a lot of upper body strength to start with, but perhaps for a particular role they might add in some extra exercises.  It would be very interesting to know what they actually do.

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12 minutes ago, bridiem said:

 

That's interesting; I know nothing of such things, having neither muscle nor stamina... but it has occurred to me in recent years that female dancers are much more muscly (or at least look so) nowadays and are therefore presumably heavier than in the past (even when tiny by any normal standards), and that must have consequences in terms of partnering requirements. I do worry for the men (and, of course, for the women! Especially in pdd like those in Mayerling).

It has struck me sometimes that dancers such as Mayara Magri and Gina Storm-Jensen, both in superb physical shape, must actually weigh quite a lot as they are fairly tall and well-muscled (and absolutely beautiful, but maybe not for their dance partners).

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32 minutes ago, postie said:

All this will be guided now at the ROH by science and regular testing (standard for pro athletes in the UK).


This is very interesting, but how do you know this applies to dancers in the RB ( or any other company)?

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9 minutes ago, capybara said:


This is very interesting, but how do you know this applies to dancers in the RB ( or any other company)?

 

I think this is starting to happen with the major ballet companies in this country and it does make sense.

 

A dancer at a company ruptured her ACL last September and has been going through rehab and is only now returning to the stage.  I didn't know what an ACL was until she told me about it and now I know all too well about the injury as my dog also managed to rupture his.  He then partially ruptured his other one.  I was talking to the young lady and she explained she had special tests done on her other knee to ensure that that was less likely to rupture.  The initial tests she had some months ago came back with the result that there was a likelihood of her other ACL rupturing but fortunately more recent tests were positive and she has been able to gently return to the stage.

 

I suppose this illustrates that science is being used.  If the young lady had felt fit but hadn't had the stress tests available she could well have returned to the stage earlier with potentially disastrous results.

 

I know this post is not about Mayerling but it is about the science and the facilities that are now (hopefully) available for dancers at the bigger companies.

 

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I thought I'd hold off so I could write just the one post on two performances (by the same cast) with one of them from two different perspectives (ROH and cinema encore).

I apologise right away as it turned out just as long-winded as usual... 😐

 

Wed 5th - ROH - Osipova/Hirano
Sat 8th - ROH - Osipova/Hirano
Sunday 9th - encore showing of the Wed 5th cinema broadcast

 

I love Mayerling - it is a work of genius, a pure alpha-predator of a ballet; all muscle and sinew, power and fearful beauty, with not an ounce of unnecessary flab or filler. And all driven by primal urges we share with much of the animal kingdom - except, perhaps, that knowledge of our own mortality and, tragically, the ability to take that path in extremis.

 

So I did get slightly annoyed reading in The Times review that 'this overlong ballet has its faults (too many characters, too many scenes, too much plotting)', particularly after reading a quote in a Guardian article the previous week 'that if you have to read the programme, a ballet has failed in its job'


Well, no and no! 


Mayerling is NOT entertainment, to be supped on as a distraction; it's education, to be engaged with, assimilated and processed - and that takes work!

It's convoluted because life is messy and complicated, even (particularly?) for Royal Families. In fact, a ballet based on real life almost demands complexity as there are no magic wands to wave, no enchanted kisses to give, and certainly no deus ex machina to bring the whole edifice crashing down at the end. If there is a 'god' at work, it is MacMillan teaching us about the human condition.


The Guardian article also contained Balanchine's quote 'there are no mothers-in-law in ballet'. I would qualify that with 'but there can be if you do some homework or read the programme'. In Mayerling, a simple scowl and tap of a walking stick speaks volumes about the relationship between Elizabeth and her mother-in-law. Does anyone know when Balanchine came up with that quote? It would be wonderful to think that MacMillan included Archduchess Sophie to test that 'law'...


The lady sat next to me on opening night had not seen Mayerling before, but she had read the synopsis. She managed to keep up until about halfway through Act 2, then lost it (I didn't make it that far on my first viewing). She still enjoyed the spectacle and the dancing, though, as did I that first time.

 
So, if we can be encouraged by the choreographer to get the most from Like Water for Chocolate by watching RB Insights that were as long as the ballet itself, then I won't accept those complaints about Mayerling in The Times. And if I do want to be entertained while I'm being educated, then the best source I've found is the old South Bank documentary on YouTube (Part 1 here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IntawIGac4).


I approached Wednesday's performance full of nervous expectation and anticipation - it was opening night at the ROH, with a cast of favourites, doing one of my favourite ballets, with the cameras present and the possibility of a video release!


I found myself getting unusually emotional during Act 1, and there was lots of (hopefully) surreptitious sniffing going on. I initially put it down to the excitement of the occasion and the fact that after a couple of uninspiring new full length ballets over the last two years, I was finally watching a true masterpiece.

 

However, it also happened on Saturday 8th at the ROH and even on Sunday at the encore screening. It happened mainly during Rudolf's PDD with his mother, which laid bare the gulf between his longings and her inability to reciprocate - it was tragic to watch.

But it was also triggered by his cruel mistreatment of Stephanie, in this case the sympathy switching to Francesca Hayward as she was thrown around like a rag doll - frightened, confused and trying to adapt to the situation she found herself in as best she could.

It was even bubbling away in the earlier PDD between Morera's Larisch and Rudolf; again, the communication between them, expressed through dance and expression, had a clarity that hit home. The three females - Morera, Hayward, and especially the poker-faced Mendizabel - were on top form, but the common denominator of Hirano's Rudolf really helped to expose and amplify the dynamics of those relationships.

 

The character of Rudolf is difficult to portray as it needs to demonstrate his gradual inner disintegration across the three acts. The dancer can't start off completely 'mad and bad', and neither can he leave his madness until his last scene with Mary. During the last run, there was some criticism of Hirano keeping too much of his inner turmoil, er, inside. I felt he certainly improved over three performances in the last run, but for this run I think there has been a marked improvement in projecting that gradual disintegration (and the causes of it) to the audience. This may just be his growing experience, but it might also be receiving the benefit of Ed Watson's insights now he has moved to coaching. 


Either way, his improved skills at projection, coupled with his incredible physical stature, strength and endurance, bodes well for the future. Rudolf may well be disintegrating before our eyes, but Hirano is consolidating his own interpretation of this character very nicely indeed.

 

And what of Osipova's Mary? She, too, goes on a journey from wide-eyed adolescent at the Imperial Court to nymphomaniac (going to meet someone alone, in their bedroom, dressed in a negligee sort of gives the game away) and, ultimately, to willing (and even eager) participation in the story's deadly conclusion.

I think Osipova mentioned in the broadcast between acts that she is at her best when she completely inhabits the character on stage. That doesn't happen every time with her (just most!), but when it does her performance and character's journey can reach heights that few others can. Examples would include the shifts in character required for the three acts of Sylvia, for Romeo and Juliet, and certainly for Anastasia (as an aside, this is one reason I'm a bit worried about the RB just doing Act 3 of Anastasia - I think it needs the context-setting of Acts 1 and 2 to make it work. It's that business of real-life stories being complicated again!).


Having seen yesterday's encore cinema broadcast of opening night, I'm actually now more impressed with the Act 2 bedroom scene than I was on the night itself - and I think this was down to how much I was hoping for a flawless performance as it was being filmed/broadcast.

And there were a few 'issues' that had a disproportionate effect on me - the revolver firing too soon and having to be fired again, plus the rather untidy, early dismount from a lift (and ironically, there was a segment in the interval broadcast that referred to the difficult of their PDDs - lots of hands being moved to lots of places. Of course, it worked perfectly there!).

The final PDD was harrowing, but at the same time somehow intensely beautiful to watch as they made the ultimate sacrifice for each other.

 

There were other gremlins as well, including Mitzi Caspar having to spend some time extricating her skirt from the chair she was trying to get up from, just when Rudolf was about to ask her to commit suicide with him. And please, please bring back proper blanks to be fired behind the screen for the double 'suicide' (they don't even have to be in the gun); otherwise the gunshots can be lost in the music, and the lack of a bright flash from the gun leaves doubt as to what's happened. Given all the technology available, why not give the job to a percussionist - surely they could get their beats and the bangs on the dot?


And talking of the 'old days', it used to be that broadcasts were filmed twice - once to practise and get something in the can, and the other on the night itself. This was filmed only once, on opening night - not even part-way into the run when things generally get smoother - so there's no fall-back position! Was this just over-confidence, or a cost-cutting exercise - or both? 🤔

And while I'm at it, why on earth was it broadcast and not streamed? I know it was an encore broadcast, but there were literally ten people in the city centre cinema we went to. This cost the two of us around £40 including parking and travel, of which the ROH would receive a fraction. I would much rather pay £25 direct to the ROH and settle down in front of a TV - no hassle, no traffic jams, no parking, no having to go out to the desk to tell them there was no sound (though someone else did that, not me), and a much better picture quality (it's in the nature of the projection equipment that blacks are rendered a dark grey - modern TVs pride themselves on rendering black, so if a TV was that bad it would be straight back to the shop!). 


I didn't realise until I went to the Saturday performance, which wasn't filmed, that the lighting was exactly the same as on opening night; no allowance was made for filming. Yes, the cinema broadcast was dark, but it was still watchable (key dancers were well lit) and nicely reflected the overall dark mood.

 

What is really annoying is that Saturday's performance with the same cast was absolutely superb! After the 'practice' that was opening night, the cast had extended their 'comfort zone' and danced with a confidence, precision and abandon that completely swept me along. It was one of 'those' performances, and the great shame of it is that the cameras were not there to record it...

 

In a ballet that is a relentless challenge for the male lead, I'm becoming increasingly in awe of a scene in which he does not feature - when Larisch arrives at the Vetsera household, where Mary and her mother are arranging flowers. This scene becomes the historical axis around which the increasingly complex plot is cajoled into moving in the direction that ultimately leads to tragedy and, eventually, repercussions across Europe and the world.

This is instigated and steered by deception on the part of Larisch. Three women in a drawing room, and a game of tarot; and that music - full of foreboding. A stunning piece of story-telling. I'm reminded of the bit of The Second Coming that starts 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre' and ends 'Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world', and it makes me shiver.

And the things is, we know what's going to happen - we have a god's-eye view, but we are impotent gods; all we can do it watch it unfold, Cassandra-like. The impact of that scene was enhanced by the excited dancing of Osipova's Mary - full of the fast, hyperactive movement of the adolescent, but also accompanied by laser-sharp movements and stops - in contrast to Morera's more deliberate movements in controlling events.
Unlike some, I have a lot of sympathy for Larisch. I think she genuinely cares for Rudolf (more than all the other women thus far) but is gradually losing her influence and ability to rein in his increasingly deranged behaviour. She hopes that 'younger blood' will be able to help, and forgoes her own position in a selfless quest to help Rudolf.

Why do I say this? Because at no point does Rudolf ask her to die with him. To me, her motive is not to find a sacrificial lamb, but a salve for his troubled mind. She may be an arch-manipulator, but that alone doesn't make her evil. From our privileged position, it can look like the bestowing of a death sentence (especially with that sombre chord that is played when she places her hand on Osipova's shoulder) - but that is the sadness that comes with our knowledge of the future. Larisch sees a slightly different future, and her contained excitement is contained and only manifested in her stuttering exit across the stage.

 

I've already mentioned how MacMillan managed to demonstrate the relationship between daughter- and mother-in-law. A couple of other tiny, but telling, encounters worked particularly well. The Hungarian officer trying to flirt with the Empress is beautifully put in his place by a suave Gary Avis demonstrating that the officer might well be able to kiss the outside of her hand, but in turning that hand over and kissing it on the inside he implies he has much more intimate access - superb!
And I just love the way Mary's increasingly reckless relationship with Rudolf is implied in the way she traverses the stage to him, moving the gun around in circles like a gunslinger, and also when she goes across to him, arms flailing like a windmill. 
And I mentioned in the last run how Mary moving across the stage in the suicide scene on her knees, and prostrating herself in a cross made perfect sense when I found out that the land underneath where they died became a place of worship. There are so many layers to be mined here...


Finally, I'd like to say how much I enjoyed Leticia Dias' Louise - she really does have 'presence'.

 

Thank you for reading all of this! 

 


 

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9 minutes ago, Nogoat said:

The Hungarian officer trying to flirt with the Empress is beautifully put in his place by a suave Gary Avis demonstrating that the officer might well be able to kiss the outside of her hand, but in turning that hand over and kissing it on the inside he implies he has much more intimate access - superb!

 

I find that one of the most erotic moments in the ballet, more so than a lot of the much more extremely energetic choreography!

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1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

 

I find that one of the most erotic moments in the ballet, more so than a lot of the much more extremely energetic choreography!

Yes I have always thought that that little gesture speaks volumes. And I love the way the soldier understands immediately.  

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1 hour ago, Nogoat said:

And talking of the 'old days', it used to be that broadcasts were filmed twice - once to practise and get something in the can, and the other on the night itself. This was filmed only once, on opening night - not even part-way into the run when things generally get smoother - so there's no fall-back position! Was this just over-confidence, or a cost-cutting exercise - or both? 🤔

 [...]

What is really annoying is that Saturday's performance with the same cast was absolutely superb! After the 'practice' that was opening night, the cast had extended their 'comfort zone' and danced with a confidence, precision and abandon that completely swept me along. It was one of 'those' performances, and the great shame of it is that the cameras were not there to record it...

 

Yes - IIRC, back in 2009(?) when the Ed Watson DVD was recorded, I think he may have had 4 goes - the "unofficial" first night for Sun readers, and certainly two recorded performances, because I was interested to see whether they would replace the knocked-over chair in the scene at Mayerling (they didn't - I think it was pretty much the final performance that was committed to DVD).  As I think I've already said, I think it was rather tough on the cast, expecting them to deliver first time around, with no safety net, and no time to warm up to the roles.  And as we know, several things did go wrong.

 

It wouldn't be the only time they've done a single recording - the Ashton Dream bill with Steven McRae comes to mind - but even then there was a dry run first.  I do wonder whether this one is ultimately intended for streaming rather than anything else.

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13 hours ago, Nogoat said:

 

I thought I'd hold off so I could write just the one post on two performances (by the same cast) with one of them from two different perspectives (ROH and cinema encore).

I apologise right away as it turned out just as long-winded as usual... 😐

 

Wed 5th - ROH - Osipova/Hirano
Sat 8th - ROH - Osipova/Hirano
Sunday 9th - encore showing of the Wed 5th cinema broadcast

 

I love Mayerling - it is a work of genius, a pure alpha-predator of a ballet; all muscle and sinew, power and fearful beauty, with not an ounce of unnecessary flab or filler. And all driven by primal urges we share with much of the animal kingdom - except, perhaps, that knowledge of our own mortality and, tragically, the ability to take that path in extremis.

 

So I did get slightly annoyed reading in The Times review that 'this overlong ballet has its faults (too many characters, too many scenes, too much plotting)', particularly after reading a quote in a Guardian article the previous week 'that if you have to read the programme, a ballet has failed in its job'


Well, no and no! 


Mayerling is NOT entertainment, to be supped on as a distraction; it's education, to be engaged with, assimilated and processed - and that takes work!

It's convoluted because life is messy and complicated, even (particularly?) for Royal Families. In fact, a ballet based on real life almost demands complexity as there are no magic wands to wave, no enchanted kisses to give, and certainly no deus ex machina to bring the whole edifice crashing down at the end. If there is a 'god' at work, it is MacMillan teaching us about the human condition.


The Guardian article also contained Balanchine's quote 'there are no mothers-in-law in ballet'. I would qualify that with 'but there can be if you do some homework or read the programme'. In Mayerling, a simple scowl and tap of a walking stick speaks volumes about the relationship between Elizabeth and her mother-in-law. Does anyone know when Balanchine came up with that quote? It would be wonderful to think that MacMillan included Archduchess Sophie to test that 'law'...


The lady sat next to me on opening night had not seen Mayerling before, but she had read the synopsis. She managed to keep up until about halfway through Act 2, then lost it (I didn't make it that far on my first viewing). She still enjoyed the spectacle and the dancing, though, as did I that first time.

 
So, if we can be encouraged by the choreographer to get the most from Like Water for Chocolate by watching RB Insights that were as long as the ballet itself, then I won't accept those complaints about Mayerling in The Times. And if I do want to be entertained while I'm being educated, then the best source I've found is the old South Bank documentary on YouTube (Part 1 here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IntawIGac4).


I approached Wednesday's performance full of nervous expectation and anticipation - it was opening night at the ROH, with a cast of favourites, doing one of my favourite ballets, with the cameras present and the possibility of a video release!


I found myself getting unusually emotional during Act 1, and there was lots of (hopefully) surreptitious sniffing going on. I initially put it down to the excitement of the occasion and the fact that after a couple of uninspiring new full length ballets over the last two years, I was finally watching a true masterpiece.

 

However, it also happened on Saturday 8th at the ROH and even on Sunday at the encore screening. It happened mainly during Rudolf's PDD with his mother, which laid bare the gulf between his longings and her inability to reciprocate - it was tragic to watch.

But it was also triggered by his cruel mistreatment of Stephanie, in this case the sympathy switching to Francesca Hayward as she was thrown around like a rag doll - frightened, confused and trying to adapt to the situation she found herself in as best she could.

It was even bubbling away in the earlier PDD between Morera's Larisch and Rudolf; again, the communication between them, expressed through dance and expression, had a clarity that hit home. The three females - Morera, Hayward, and especially the poker-faced Mendizabel - were on top form, but the common denominator of Hirano's Rudolf really helped to expose and amplify the dynamics of those relationships.

 

The character of Rudolf is difficult to portray as it needs to demonstrate his gradual inner disintegration across the three acts. The dancer can't start off completely 'mad and bad', and neither can he leave his madness until his last scene with Mary. During the last run, there was some criticism of Hirano keeping too much of his inner turmoil, er, inside. I felt he certainly improved over three performances in the last run, but for this run I think there has been a marked improvement in projecting that gradual disintegration (and the causes of it) to the audience. This may just be his growing experience, but it might also be receiving the benefit of Ed Watson's insights now he has moved to coaching. 


Either way, his improved skills at projection, coupled with his incredible physical stature, strength and endurance, bodes well for the future. Rudolf may well be disintegrating before our eyes, but Hirano is consolidating his own interpretation of this character very nicely indeed.

 

And what of Osipova's Mary? She, too, goes on a journey from wide-eyed adolescent at the Imperial Court to nymphomaniac (going to meet someone alone, in their bedroom, dressed in a negligee sort of gives the game away) and, ultimately, to willing (and even eager) participation in the story's deadly conclusion.

I think Osipova mentioned in the broadcast between acts that she is at her best when she completely inhabits the character on stage. That doesn't happen every time with her (just most!), but when it does her performance and character's journey can reach heights that few others can. Examples would include the shifts in character required for the three acts of Sylvia, for Romeo and Juliet, and certainly for Anastasia (as an aside, this is one reason I'm a bit worried about the RB just doing Act 3 of Anastasia - I think it needs the context-setting of Acts 1 and 2 to make it work. It's that business of real-life stories being complicated again!).


Having seen yesterday's encore cinema broadcast of opening night, I'm actually now more impressed with the Act 2 bedroom scene than I was on the night itself - and I think this was down to how much I was hoping for a flawless performance as it was being filmed/broadcast.

And there were a few 'issues' that had a disproportionate effect on me - the revolver firing too soon and having to be fired again, plus the rather untidy, early dismount from a lift (and ironically, there was a segment in the interval broadcast that referred to the difficult of their PDDs - lots of hands being moved to lots of places. Of course, it worked perfectly there!).

The final PDD was harrowing, but at the same time somehow intensely beautiful to watch as they made the ultimate sacrifice for each other.

 

There were other gremlins as well, including Mitzi Caspar having to spend some time extricating her skirt from the chair she was trying to get up from, just when Rudolf was about to ask her to commit suicide with him. And please, please bring back proper blanks to be fired behind the screen for the double 'suicide' (they don't even have to be in the gun); otherwise the gunshots can be lost in the music, and the lack of a bright flash from the gun leaves doubt as to what's happened. Given all the technology available, why not give the job to a percussionist - surely they could get their beats and the bangs on the dot?


And talking of the 'old days', it used to be that broadcasts were filmed twice - once to practise and get something in the can, and the other on the night itself. This was filmed only once, on opening night - not even part-way into the run when things generally get smoother - so there's no fall-back position! Was this just over-confidence, or a cost-cutting exercise - or both? 🤔

And while I'm at it, why on earth was it broadcast and not streamed? I know it was an encore broadcast, but there were literally ten people in the city centre cinema we went to. This cost the two of us around £40 including parking and travel, of which the ROH would receive a fraction. I would much rather pay £25 direct to the ROH and settle down in front of a TV - no hassle, no traffic jams, no parking, no having to go out to the desk to tell them there was no sound (though someone else did that, not me), and a much better picture quality (it's in the nature of the projection equipment that blacks are rendered a dark grey - modern TVs pride themselves on rendering black, so if a TV was that bad it would be straight back to the shop!). 


I didn't realise until I went to the Saturday performance, which wasn't filmed, that the lighting was exactly the same as on opening night; no allowance was made for filming. Yes, the cinema broadcast was dark, but it was still watchable (key dancers were well lit) and nicely reflected the overall dark mood.

 

What is really annoying is that Saturday's performance with the same cast was absolutely superb! After the 'practice' that was opening night, the cast had extended their 'comfort zone' and danced with a confidence, precision and abandon that completely swept me along. It was one of 'those' performances, and the great shame of it is that the cameras were not there to record it...

 

In a ballet that is a relentless challenge for the male lead, I'm becoming increasingly in awe of a scene in which he does not feature - when Larisch arrives at the Vetsera household, where Mary and her mother are arranging flowers. This scene becomes the historical axis around which the increasingly complex plot is cajoled into moving in the direction that ultimately leads to tragedy and, eventually, repercussions across Europe and the world.

This is instigated and steered by deception on the part of Larisch. Three women in a drawing room, and a game of tarot; and that music - full of foreboding. A stunning piece of story-telling. I'm reminded of the bit of The Second Coming that starts 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre' and ends 'Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world', and it makes me shiver.

And the things is, we know what's going to happen - we have a god's-eye view, but we are impotent gods; all we can do it watch it unfold, Cassandra-like. The impact of that scene was enhanced by the excited dancing of Osipova's Mary - full of the fast, hyperactive movement of the adolescent, but also accompanied by laser-sharp movements and stops - in contrast to Morera's more deliberate movements in controlling events.
Unlike some, I have a lot of sympathy for Larisch. I think she genuinely cares for Rudolf (more than all the other women thus far) but is gradually losing her influence and ability to rein in his increasingly deranged behaviour. She hopes that 'younger blood' will be able to help, and forgoes her own position in a selfless quest to help Rudolf.

Why do I say this? Because at no point does Rudolf ask her to die with him. To me, her motive is not to find a sacrificial lamb, but a salve for his troubled mind. She may be an arch-manipulator, but that alone doesn't make her evil. From our privileged position, it can look like the bestowing of a death sentence (especially with that sombre chord that is played when she places her hand on Osipova's shoulder) - but that is the sadness that comes with our knowledge of the future. Larisch sees a slightly different future, and her contained excitement is contained and only manifested in her stuttering exit across the stage.

 

I've already mentioned how MacMillan managed to demonstrate the relationship between daughter- and mother-in-law. A couple of other tiny, but telling, encounters worked particularly well. The Hungarian officer trying to flirt with the Empress is beautifully put in his place by a suave Gary Avis demonstrating that the officer might well be able to kiss the outside of her hand, but in turning that hand over and kissing it on the inside he implies he has much more intimate access - superb!
And I just love the way Mary's increasingly reckless relationship with Rudolf is implied in the way she traverses the stage to him, moving the gun around in circles like a gunslinger, and also when she goes across to him, arms flailing like a windmill. 
And I mentioned in the last run how Mary moving across the stage in the suicide scene on her knees, and prostrating herself in a cross made perfect sense when I found out that the land underneath where they died became a place of worship. There are so many layers to be mined here...


Finally, I'd like to say how much I enjoyed Leticia Dias' Louise - she really does have 'presence'.

 

Thank you for reading all of this! 

 


 

The best ever review I’ve read in such a long time! Wow - I’m on a high!

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16 hours ago, capybara said:


This is very interesting, but how do you know this applies to dancers in the RB ( or any other company)?

 

They are (a) professional athletes, (b) very valuable asset's and (c) it is standard practice with elite performers.

 

I can't say for certain; it's possible the ROH has its head in the sand on this though it seems unlikely. Just in London there are so many centres of sporting excellence whether football, rugby, athletics, rowing, F1, tennis, etc. It's an industry.

 

just to add: I remember an interview with Carlos Acosta in which the conversation turned to his early influences (in Cuba). He said that one of the things that drew him in to dance was that he could equate what he was physically working towards with professional footballers, and that helped him considerably. 

 

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9 minutes ago, postie said:

 

They are (a) professional athletes, (b) very valuable asset's and (c) it is standard practice with elite performers.

 

I can't say for certain; it's possible the ROH has its head in the sand on this though it seems unlikely. Just in London there are so many centres of sporting excellence whether football, rugby, athletics, rowing, F1, tennis, etc. It's an industry.

 

 

England Rugby used to 'borrow' the RB's physio, as I recall (may still do!)

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16 minutes ago, postie said:

 

They are (a) professional athletes, (b) very valuable asset's and (c) it is standard practice with elite performers.

 

I can't say for certain; it's possible the ROH has its head in the sand on this though it seems unlikely.

 

At least the ROH seems to be paying quite a few people to look after the dancers (per the website and we all know how accurate that is)

  • Clinical Director, Ballet Healthcare
  • Company Physiotherapists (x 4)
  • Pilates Instructor
  • Gyrotonic Instructor
  • Performance Psychologist
  • Ballet Rehabilitation Specialist and Class Teacher
  • Ballet Masseur
  • Sports Science (x 2)
  • Registered Dietician
  • Medical Advisor
  • Company Podiatrist
  • Healthcare Coordinator

 

 

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The video is from 2016 and I hope they are continuing the good work despite COVID and budget cuts.

 

If you can stand a little more (from 2018) Raising the barre: how science is saving ballet dancers | Ballet | The Guardian

 

and if you really want to get technical Dance Exposure, Individual Characteristics, and Injury Risk over Five Seasons in a Professional Ballet Company - PubMed (nih.gov)

 

Sorry, as you can tell this kind of thing fascinates me......

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The above article will be in tomorrow's links, along with many others of interest to ballet and dance lovers everywhere.  A huge thanks to Jan and Ian for their continued hard work and dedication in trawling worldwide information to provide it to us in one place.  

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14 minutes ago, Sim said:

The above article will be in tomorrow's links, along with many others of interest to ballet and dance lovers everywhere.  A huge thanks to Jan and Ian for their continued hard work and dedication in trawling worldwide information to provide it to us in one place.  

My only intent was to highlight an article that was published after the Links had been posted. As the post has clearly caused some upset, please remove it. 

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2 minutes ago, oncnp said:

My only intent was to highlight an article that was published after the Links had been posted. As the post has clearly caused some upset, please remove it. 

It hasn't caused upset.  I was just reminding everyone that there is further reading in the links every day.  And because of Ian and Jan's hard work, whatever is missed on one day because it appears after the links are published, it will be there the next day.  Of course, if they or we miss anything of interest please let us know.  The links are a useful and wonderful archive so we as mods strive to get every piece we can included every day. 

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Can someone explain something that is puzzling us …. When Larisch enters the music room in Act 2 she is the only woman not wearing gloves, and she seems to make a point (and this was strongly picked up by the cameras for the broadcast) of emphasising her bare arms. Why is this? Are we missing a vital piece of plotting, or did she leave her gloves chez Vetsera, or does it somehow show that she is no better than she should be? We have several more performances to watch and I would love to be able to stop worrying about this.

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